For the better part of the last decade, the World Trade Center’s Ground Zero was far from the shining imagery of hope and renewal that government officials promised after the destruction of the Twin Towers. The site then was the subject of a sordid mess: 101 contractors, 33 architects, 19 public agencies, two developers, and key politicians bickered over how to build a new World Trade Center complex that was both a towering memorial to the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks and a bustling commercial skyline.
After a series of meetings, forums, and public consultations, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation picked Daniel Libeskind’s design for “Memory Foundations” as the master plan for the new complex. But this was only the beginning of a decade-long battle to transform the 16 acres of Ground Zero.
Libeskind gained public support for his idea to turn the original footprints of the twin towers into a memorial instead of having a commercial complex rebuilt onsite. The National September 11 Memorial. “Reflecting Absence” was opened in time for the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Designer Michael Arad transformed the Twin Tower footprints into pools with large waterfalls. The names of the 2893 victims are inscribed in 76 bronze plates in the edges of the Memorial pool. At night, the names glow by the light hidden in the panels below.
One World Trade Center, the Western Hemisphere’s tallest building, formerly called the “Freedom Tower” since it’s height (1776 ft.) commemorated the year of the Declaration of Independence. David Child’s design for the building has undergone several revisions of the years, mostly because of major issues and disputes. The structure is protected against on-ground blast attacks by a fortified, windowless base, making it look like an oversized concrete bunker. This was remedied by covering the walls with pairs of 13-foot vertical glass fins. But this didn’t stop critics from labeling it as “Fear Tower.” making the world’s most expensive office building (it has gone way over budget and costs $3.9 billion) a display of paranoia and an “expression of American hubris than freedom” as the New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff put it. It will open by 2014 and will be the home of Condé Nast Publications.
Aside from the Fumihiko Maki-designed Tower Four, other structures in the complex are yet to be completed. These include Norman Foster’s Tower Two, Richard Rogers’s Tower Three, Kohn Pendersen Fox’s Tower Five, Santiago Calatrava’s $3.44 billion transportation hub, and Frank Gehry’s performance arts center, and Snøhetta’s museum. The entire site is scheduled for completion in 2037.